CORPORATE FOCUS: Greed, and Lies, and Other Corporate Tricks
How has corporate America shafted us this month?Let us count the ways.One, they profit off our misery and the misery of our parents and grandparents.Earlier this month, the District Attorney in San Jose, California charged a nursing home company with six felony counts of elder abuse.The lead prosecutor in the case, Randy Hey, a 25-year veteran, says he can't remember the last time he criminally investigated a corporation for a crime. But then came the nursing home, Guardian Postacute Services Inc.Hey was told of a patient at a Guardian nursing home in Los Gatos. A feeding tube was inserted into the patient, but the tube was not properly cleaned, and she was eventually rushed to an area hospital."At the hospital, the doctors could smell the area where the bandage was covering the tube," Hey said. "They pulled it off and there were maggots everywhere.""At that point, Guardian came to me and told me they were going to lose their federal funding if they were convicted of elder abuse," Hey said.Hey figured this might be an isolated incident. "I did not want to be in a position for being responsible to shut down 16 facilities. So, we looked to see what else was out there. We found over 60 Department of Health violations statewide, with the majority being in our county. And we expanded the investigation and found five other problems, which resulted in five additional felony counts. As a result of the publicity, we have received much more information and we are investigating a substantial number of new cases."The company pled not guilty on all counts. A lawyer for the company told us that the facts of the case "don't support a criminal violation."We hope they do.Two, they invade our privacy.Earlier this week in Minneapolis, Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch filed a lawsuit against U.S. Bank for allegedly releasing customers' private banking information to Member Works, a telemarketing company, in exchange for a fee of $4 million plus commissions.Hatch charged that U.S. Bank, a unit of U.S. Bancorp, violated the federal law and state privacy laws by providing the telemarketing vendor with such private information as Social Security numbers, account balances, transactions and credit limits.Hatch alleged that U.S. Bank provided Member Works with its customers' name, address, telephone numbers of the primary and secondary customer, gender, marital status, homeownership status, occupation, checking account number, credit card number, Social Security number, birth date, account open date, average account balance, account frequency information, credit limit, credit insurance status, year to date finance charges, automated transactions authorized, credit card type and brand, number of credit cards, cash advance amount, behavior score, bankruptcy score, date of last payment, amount of last payment, date of last statement, and statement balance.How about the size of our underwear? Did they get that too?Member Works used the U.S. Bank customer data to sell memberships in a health program that allowed members to get discounts on dental and health care visits.Three, they destroy the planet and then set up corporate front groups inside the beltway bubble to lie to us.For the past couple of years now, the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a corporate front group made up of 200 corporate thugs -- polluters like Exxon, General Motors, Ford, Texaco -- has worked to pull the wool over our eyes on global warming.These 200 predators are the companies spewing carbon monoxide into the atmosphere and turning the atmosphere into one giant greenhouse.Ozone Action's John Passacantando says that the polluters could end the threat of global warming if they simply embrace currently available technology to make the economy work more efficiently.With sea levels projected to rise one to three feet as a result of the global warming, there goes Miami Beach and a good part of Florida. Talk about corporate crime.A friend of ours likes to quote his Rabbi to the effect: "In regard to cruelties committed in the name of a free society -- some are guilty, while all are responsible."We've modified that a bit. Some are guilty, but we all are responsible for bringing the guilty to justice. No justice, no peace.Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C-based Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy.